Prescription for Shoes

Friday, June 19, 2015

We walk into the exam room—Jeremy, a fourth year medical student on the cusp of finishing a clinical rotation at the Mayan Medical Aid health post, and me, a global health graduate student eager to learn about healthcare in indigenous communities in Guatemala.

Stooped on a modest wooden stool we find Juana*, an elderly Mayan woman whose legs sway in the air since they are too short to reach the ground. Flanked on her left is Antonia, the clinic’s translator who effortlessly goes back and forth speaking Kaqchikel with the patient and Spanish with us.

Jeremy asks the patient what brings her into the clinic, and Antonia relays that the patient feels stiffness in her back and weakness in her legs. He asks follow-up questions, like when the pain started and if she has any other sort of discomfort, and we learn that Juana often works long hours in the fields carrying large bundles of wood strapped to her head and back.

Jeremy, recognizing a pattern consistent with other patients he has seen, turns to me and says that the patient appears to have osteoarthritis. “Nearly everyone in this community has arthritis,” he explains to me, “because they all have to work too hard just to survive.”

Source: Duke Global Health Institute (link opens in a new window)

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